I read a book Still Close To Heaven, by Kathleen Kane. It was a historical romance with the description: Jackson Tate was a ghost. Since he wasn't good enough for heaven, and wasn't bad enough for, well… "the other place," his spirit was trapped in a run-down saloon in the Washington Territory.
Although I do not believe that a ghost hangs around and is given another chance to make it into heaven, the book was a quick, "don't have to think" read. I have often tried to find words to describe being separated from God, but couldn't. Then, in this quick, "don't have to think" book the words appeared. At this point in the story, Rachel could see Jackson and (Are you ready to be surprised?) she had fallen in love with him. She asked, "What's it like? Being a … ghost?"
Jackson says there is no rest like preachers are always going on about. He said there was no peace or serenity. He admitted he had messed up nearly everything he ever did. Then he continued.
"I made my own Hell, Rachel. Built it fine and strong, all by myself. Stone by stone. Brick by brick. It's nothingness, Rachel. It's day after day of nothing followed by long nights where the only thing to do is sit in the dark and curse yourself for wasting everything you were given. It's watching others do the same things you did and being unable to warn them. To tell them that they still have time to change."
"It's listening to the wind and not feeling it. It's standing in the rain and not getting wet. It's hunger that can't be fed and thirst that won't be quenched."
"It's touching and not feeling. It's talking and not being heard. It's being more tired than you ever thought possible and yet being unable to sleep."
"It's an eternity of loneliness. I watch every sunrise. Each sunset. It's a marvel, Rachel. A miracle. Two miracles every day. And I never noticed until it was too late. There are so many things I notice now. When it's too late for any of them."
These were said with shaking of the head, shame, and a strained whisper that rose straight from his soul.
For a quick read, these words struck me hard. They were not easy to read and even harder to imagine.
WHAT WOULD THAT BE LIKE?
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. 2 Thessalonians 1:9
We are not so different than Jackson Tate. We build our own hell and we do it brick by brick, stone by stone. And sometimes we have to sit back and watch those we love make the same mistakes we made. We are unable to make them hear.
Jackson Tate was describing what it was like to be separated from the humans he could see. If that is hell, what would it be like to be separated from God?
shut out from the presence of the Lord
What hell would it be to talk to God and God not hear you? To be shut out and suffer an eternity of loneliness? To be in nothingness day after day followed by long nights of cursing yourself?
from the majesty of his power
What hell would it be to watch the wonders of heaven and know it was too late to receive them? To see the majesty of God's power and know that for eternity, you were not allowed to join in that majesty?
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FIND OUT WHAT BEING SHUT OUT FROM GOD WOULD BE LIKE!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:8-13